NIOSH Issues Guidance for Controlling Hazardous Dust During Tuckpointing

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has released a publication providing guidance to help construction workers control hazardous dust during tuckpointing, a process that involves using grinders to remove deteriorated mortar between bricks.

Workers involved in tuckpointing may be exposed to crystalline silica at concentrations up to 100 times the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) of 50 µg/m3 for lung disease. In addition, exposure to crystalline silica has been linked to lung cancer, kidney disease, reduced lung function, and other disorders, NIOSH says. No effective treatment exists for silicosis, but it can be prevented by controlling workers' exposure to dust containing crystalline silica.

NIOSH notes that as brick buildings get older, the mortar between the bricks starts to fall apart and needs to be replaced to prevent water intrusion into the building. Before replacing the mortar, one-half of an inch to three-quarters of an inch of the old mortar is removed by using a grinder. The grinder breaks up the mortar and turns it into airborne dust that may contain crystalline silica. The crystalline silica dust released during tuckpointing operations is very hard to control. The dust may be carried throughout the workplace. When workers use compressed air to clean their clothes, tools, and equipment, even more dust is added to the air.

To access the publication, which describes effective hazard controls and work practices, go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2008-126/.

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